Springs are often rainy in Romania, and this warm soup makes quite a delightful companion when the skies are gray. Although not as common as nettle purée, the soup is still a Lent favorite in many households. Again, recipe variations aren’t uncommon across Romania. Non-vegans or people who aren’t fasting serve it with a dollop of heavy sour cream.
Makes 4 servings
- 2 pounds freshly harvested spring nettles
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 3 tablespoons white rice, washed thoroughly
- 3/4 cup tomato juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Lemon juice to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley for garnish
Wash the fresh nettle leaves thoroughly in cold water in a deep pot. Use rubber gloves to protect your skin from the stings. Don’t drain the water; instead, remove the nettles with a skimmer to allow any impurities to fall to the vessel’s bottom before changing the water. Repeat this operation several times until the water is clear.
Blanch the nettles in a pot of salted, boiling water (about 4 1/4 cups) for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and strain through a sieve, reserving the liquid. When the nettles have cooled enough to handle, chop them finely on a wooden surface.
Heat the oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and carrot for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring to avoid darkening.
Add the rice, nettles, and reserved broth from boiling the nettles, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomato juice. Cover and simmer on low for 5 to 7 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked.
Add the garlic and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Simmer for a couple minutes more. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and lemon juice as needed.
Remove from heat and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh parsley leaves.